Have you noticed the proliferation of mini football pitches being built around the capital? They are not hard to spot, especially at night, when the lights are blazing and the shimmering bright green of the artificial grass takes centre stage. They are popping up everywhere, from Seeb to Amerat, and thousands of footballers of all ages and abilities are heading out after Isha prayers to join in casual six-a-side matches.
It’s an informal arrangement, where one team challenges another and they book a pitch for an hour – 25 minutes for each half and a 10-minute break in between – for as little as RO12. With two teams and six players on each side, that’s just RO1 each for an hour of playing their favourite sport.
I headed down to Amerat recently to catch all the action of a night of football and I have to say it was great. The atmosphere was fun, the games were fast and furious – just like a six-a-side match should be – and the players were very friendly.
I wanted to get some good action shots and my favourite is one of a goalkeeper, who is wearing gloves, kicking the ball out of the goal area.
Known locally as “tartan”, there’s no referee, so the players themselves ensure that everybody sticks to the rules. But the idea behind it all is that it’s a friendly, albeit, competitive game.
Some of the players told me it was for people who love the game, but don’t have the time to join an organised league that would also involve training and commitment. Many of the guys who were playing often work long hours and have families, so this was the best way for them to still play the beautiful game.
It’s a fun way to stay fit and as it all happens in the evening, many also play in the summer, making it a year-round sport
Because night football is so casual, all you have to do is organise a team of six players, find another team to challenge and then book the pitch on your chosen day and time. You will find the mini pitches dotted all around the capital. Failing that, you can alwayshead down to one of them and see if any of the teams need a last-minute substitute.